Career Woman

Don’t be afraid to ask – get the salary you deserve


As an experienced HR specialist, we have been talking about the importance of gender diversity and equal pay in organisations for many years now. We all know the statistics* and how women come off second best when it comes to comparative salaries to their male counterparts. And as many people know this isn’t an easy fix.  Even government is failing to reduce the gender pay gap. I could list off endless ways organisations could improve this situation, but we’ve all heard them before.

The question is what can we as women do to improve the situation for ourselves?

As females we are taught from a very young age the importance of being polite, demure and compliant. Assertive, confident and forthright girls are quickly turned around to be seen as pushy, overbearing and controlling. So when it comes to things like negotiating a salary,employment terms or even a promotion, is it any wonder we end up second best? In our defence we don’t exactly have the greatest foundations to set us up for success.

So how can we start to change this picture and change the script for both ourselves and the future female generations?

Well, we can start by re-writing that script with 5 key focus areas to get the salary you deserve:

1. As the L’Oreal team would say “because you’re worth it”

For too long women have undervalued their skills and capabilities. This is known as the “I’m not ‘fill in the blank’ enough” syndrome.  Not smart enough, not experienced enough, not qualified enough, and the list goes on.
Pretend your best friend is talking to you right now. Now she is telling you about the experiences you have had, your achievements, your qualifications, the relationships you have, the people you have helped, the children you have raised, the partner you support, the travel you’ve done and the endless multi-tasking of your life and work.

You are amazing right? Exactly. So isn’t it about time we stop being so damn hard on ourselves and realise that fact?The sooner we realise we are worth it, the sooner we will build the confidence to communicate this to others and not to settle for less. As Sonya Friedman says “the way you treat yourself sets the standard for others”.

2. Do your research

When you are applying for that promotion or going for a new job, know the job inside and out. I’m talking benchmark salaries, industry salaries, previous people in that role, transferrable skills, day to day actual accountabilities of the role (and not just some job description crammed with jargon that sounds swanky). The better equipped you are with that information the better prepared you will be to feel confident in your request for the salary that is right for you.

3. Don’t let a job description put you off or knock your confidence when going for that job

Many of you will be familiar with this concept ……a man will read a job description and if he can do 50% of it he’ll think he is a shoe in. A woman will read the same job description and if she can’t do at least 80% of it then she won’t apply. Sound familiar?

After years and years in HR let me tell you something, job descriptions often aren’t worth the paper they are written on. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have seen someone that does not fill the requirements of a job description get the role. Why? Because your personality, motivation, transferable skills and your individuality is far more important than having “5 years of relationship management experience” or whatever the relevant demand is.

Additionally, when you apply for that job where you don’t meet every single requirement of the job description, don’t let it get your confidence down – remember the mantra “they aren’t worth the paper they’re written on”. When you apply for that role, go all in and back yourself. A lack of confidence will show through in an interview, just remember what your best friend told you in point one, “you are amazing!”

Now……the next time you read a job description try to think more like our male counterparts – 50% is a good benchmark.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask

Time and time again it is the people that ask for the things they need that get them. It sounds like a no brainer right? Well it’s not, there are many people (both men and women) that think if they just do a good job and work hard they’ll get that promotion or that pay rise. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. In the fast paced crazy modern world we live in, gone are the days of just being loyal and doing a good job to get that promotion or pay rise. You need to speak up.

Oprah puts this very eloquently “you get in life what you have the courage to ask for” or as I have always said a little less eloquently “don’t ask don’t get”.

5. Say no

As women we can be pretty ordinary at setting boundaries and saying no. We have this innate fear that we are going to hurt someone or cause conflict. However, before we go worrying about everyone else’s feelings, how about we stop and look after ourselves first?

If someone offers you a salary that is below your minimum acceptable figure (especially after you have done your research in point 2) don’t start to assume what they are thinking and if they value or don’t value you, simply say no.

The number of people that take a job and work with a feeling of resentment is astounding. Is that job really that important to you that you can de-value yourself by taking less for it and be reminded of that every time you get paid? Of course you would say no in a professional manner, likely something along the lines of “unfortunately that salary is below my minimum expectation and as such I’d like to thank you but I won’t be able to take that offer”. In my own personal experience and working with other women supporting them through salary negotiations, 9 out of 10 times they will come back and give you what you have asked for. And if they don’t, do you really want to be working in a place that undervalues you?


* Current gender pay gap between men and women as listed by the WGEA is 16.2%

About Suzanne Williams

Suzanne Williams is the Director and Founder of Grace and Grind Career and Lifestyle Coaching as well as a certified Executive Coach, Human Resource Specialist and Yoga Teacher. Suzanne has worked for over 10 years in corporate HR roles ranging from giving advice and guidance to frontline leaders to strategy and business planning with business owners. Suzanne’s passion is to help others find a career and lifestyle that they love while growing their confidence, leadership skills and ultimate potential.

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